Seattle’s Socialist Makes Things Happen
Over the last eight years, Councilmember Kshama Sawant has been one of the most effective fighters for working people in the nation. By building movements of ordinary people instead of making backdoor deals with the establishment, Kshama has helped win historic victories. This is exactly why big business and the racist right wing are so determined to get her out of office.
As Seattle’s first elected socialist in 100 years, Kshama has led the way in demonstrating how progressive and socialist officials should lead. Kshama uses her offices as an organizing hub for working people, bringing our voices into City Hall. In addition, Kshama only takes the average workers’ wage, donating the rest of her six-figure Council salary to a solidarity fund to help working people organize.
Historic Victories: $15 Now and Tax Amazon
- BUILDING 15 NOW: When Kshama first campaigned for a $15 minimum wage it was dismissed as “utopian” and impossible. But Kshama brought together the coalition for 15 Now consisting of unions, community organizations, Socialist Alternative, and ordinary working people to make Seattle the first major city in the U.S. to win a $15 minimum wage just six months after she took office.
- Our movement’s victory in Seattle sparked a nationwide movement which has won $15 for the entire states of California, New York, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Connecticut, New Jersey, plus the District of Columbia. Three in 10 American workers now live in states which are raising their minimum wage to $15, in addition to the millions of workers who are benefitting from victories for $15 or other significant minimum wage increases in cities and states across the country. Under pressure from workers’ organizing, huge employers like Amazon have raised their wages to $15/hr.
- TAXING AMAZON AND BIG BUSINESS: In 2018, Kshama led the Tax Amazon movement that forced Seattle’s City Council to pass a unanimous resolution to tax Seattle’s wealthiest businesses in order to fund affordable housing. Shamefully, the City Council majority bowed down to Jeff Bezos’ corporate bullying, repealing the tax just weeks later.
- Despite this, in 2020 after Amazon spent $1.4 million dollars attempting to buy Seattle’s elections, Kshama and our movement fought back and WON an Amazon Tax four times larger than was originally passed two years earlier, amounting to $2 billion over 10 years to fund affordable housing and Green New Deal programs.
Renters’ Rights & Affordable Housing for All
- Kshama’s office has put forward and won a prolific number of renters’ rights bills, building towards a full “renters’ bill of rights.” These groundbreaking renters rights laws are why the real estate lobby is one of the biggest funders of the right-wing Recall campaign against Kshama.
Kshama’s office has introduced and won:
- The Move-In Fee Cap, which caps how much landlords can charge in non-refundable deposits, and requires them to offer a payment plan for move-in fees.
- The Carl Haglund Law, barring rent increases at substandard rental homes.
- The Fair Chance Housing Law, which limits the use of criminal records in rental housing applications
- Legislation requiring landlords to provide voter registration information to new tenants
- The historic winter evictions moratorium, preventing evictions in the cold winter months between December 1st and March 1st.
In 2021 alone, Kshama’s office has won the following major renters’ rights victories:
- The moratorium on school-year evictions, protecting students, school staff, and their families from eviction during the school year
- Closing a loophole in the “just cause” legislation so landlords need justification for refusing to renew a lease
- Guaranteeing tenants’ right to legal counsel if they are taken to eviction court
- Guaranteeing all renters six months’ notice on all rent increases
- Relocation assistance for renters in the form of three months’ rent if a landlord raises their rent by more than 10%
Kshama and her office have also constantly fought alongside renters and small businesses to prevent displacement and gentrification. By building movements to fight back, we have:
- Prevented the SHA’s disastrous “Stepping Forward” attack on public housing, which would have raised 4,600 tenants’ rents by 400%.
- Organized over 30 renters’ rights bootcamps with Be: Seattle to educate renters on their rights and help them fight for more.
- Helped win $650,00 in funding for small businesses hit hard by 23rd Ave construction.
- Organized with tenants against displacement from the Chateau apartments, a section-8 subsidized public housing unit in the Central District, and won an unheard-of concession with the development agency Cadence Real Estate offering $5,000 to each household in relocation assistance on top of the legal requirement.
- Brought back the public post office in the Central District, which had become a post office desert.
- Organized with seniors facing economic eviction by for-profit developers at the Halycon mobile homes park, to win an emergency moratorium on mobile park development.
- Organized with community members and the New Hope Missionary Baptist Church to win a resolution urging City Council to return land that was stolen away from the Black community in the 1960s through racist redlining.
- Organized with the Garfield Super Block movement to win $500,000 in long-overdue funding to build a new park and community services in the Central District.
- Right now, Kshama’s office is organizing with hundreds of primarily Black and Brown senior tenants at the Rainier Court apartments. The tenant’s landlord tried to raise their rent while years of code violations remain unfixed in their building. Together, Kshama’s office and the tenants fought back and won a total cancellation of the rent increases, and they are now fighting to win better living standards and crucial repairs as well as an overturning of previous rent increases.
Fighting Racism & Police Brutality
- Kshama’s office worked with a coalition of activists to resist Trump from day one, and brought out thousands of people in protest the day of Trump’s inauguration. She helped to lead a mass nonviolent civil disobedience at SeaTac Airport to demand the release of those detained by Trump’s racist Muslim Ban, as part of the movement which pressured the courts to declare the ban unconstitutional.
- Kshama joined a direct action to block the ICE office in downtown Seattle, organized a rally as part of the #FreeDaniel movement in response to the first DACA recipient who was detained under Trump, and supported the hunger strikes two years ago at the Northwest Detention Center against the inhumane conditions for undocumented immigrants at the prison.
- Kshama’s office supported the #BlackLivesMatter movement in fighting for justice for Charleena Lyles and Che Taylor.
- Through the People’s Budget, Kshama has fought against police militarization and won the Block the Bunker campaign, blocking more than $160 million from being spent on further militarizing the police.
- Alongside the May 1 action coalition and immigrants’ rights activists, Kshama brought forward a successful resolution proclaiming that City of Seattle workers had the right to take the day off on May Day without retaliation.
- Kshama was one of the only City Councilmember to vote against the New Youth Jail, and the only councilmember to vote against the rollback of accountability in the most recent city-police contract, which was recently ruled by Judge Robart to be in violation of important police accountability reforms.
- Like millions of working people across the country Kshama participated in peaceful protests during the Justice for George Floyd movement. At one point, she let demonstrators into City Hall for an hour-long, COVID-safe organizing meeting and rally that led to the victory of the nation’s first ban on police use of chemical weapons.
The People’s Budget: Bringing Working People Into City Hall
- During Kshama’s first year in office, our movement shattered a decades-long establishment tradition during Seattle’s budget season. Instead of using taxpayer money to attend a retreat hosted by Seattle’s corporate Chamber of Commerce, Kshama called it out as "a clear display of brazen corporate favoritism" and organized our first annual People’s Budget.
Each year, Kshama has fought back against police militarization and austerity policies from the corporate establishment, winning millions in funding for affordable housing and programs to prioritize racial, gender, and social justice, while at the same time demanding progressive funding sources. Through the People’s Budget, Kshama’s office has organized working people to win:
- Tens of millions of dollars in funding for affordable housing, including fighting alongside the Block the Bunker struggle and launching the Build 1000 Homes coalition to stop the Mayor and City Council Majority from wasting $160 million of public funds on further militarizing the police, instead winning $29 million for affordable housing.
- Funding for critical jobs programs, including expanding the L.E.A.D program citywide, which directs low-level offenders into community-based treatment and support services; doubling funding for Career Bridge, which help prisoners transition into the reliable, well-paying jobs; and doubling funding for the Priority Hire program, which provides good youth jobs.
- Important gains for the LGBTQ community, including funding for an LGBTQ senior center in the heart of Capitol Hill, funding for an LGBTQ wellness center at NOVA High School, and a backfill against cuts made by Mayor Jenny Durkan to services for the trans community.
- Funding for the first eviction defense attorney in the city’s history to provide badly-needed support for tenants facing evictions, as well as tenants education and organizing through organizations like the Tenants Union.
- A $15 minimum wage for all city workers as an important precursor to the implementation of our historic victory for $15 citywide, as well as wage raises for workers at the Seattle Human Services coalition, which had for years paid poverty wages for some of the most important and difficult work in our city.
- Permanent funding for the Indigenous Peoples Day Celebration.
- Millions in funding for crucial social services, including funding for the YWCA homeless shelter, programs serving survivors of domestic violence, funding for food for kids, more shelter space for a women’s shelter, increased shelter hours for homeless people, saving Seattle’s essential Urban Rest Stop from the Mayor’s cuts, restoring SHARE/WHEEL (King County’s largest shelter network) in response to cuts from the corporate establishment, and $1 million for ORCA passes for low-income middle and high school students.
- Working alongside the indigenous community, Kshama helped make Seattle one of the first cities to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day. As Indigenous leader Matt Remle said: “For six years we tried to change the racist Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day and no one responded. Councilmember Kshama Sawant responded in just a few hours when we reached out and took up the fight...and in 6 months, we won.”
- We won permanent funding for Indigenous Peoples’ Day during our People’s Budget process.
- We supported members of the Puyallup Tribe and environmental activists in their fight against a Liquid Natural Gas (fracking) facility in Tacoma.
- We worked with environmental and indigenous rights activists to divest Seattle’s budget from Wells Fargo, one of the key investors in the Dakota Access Pipeline, as a step towards a public bank.
- As a working-class representative, Kshama takes home only the average worker’s wage from her $130,000 City Council salary – the rest gets put into a Solidarity Fund to help build workers’ struggle.
- Our solidarity campaign with the EMTs in the Teamsters Local 763 resulted in the Seattle City Council unanimously adopting Kshama’s resolution rejecting the substandard wages and benefits proposed in their contract, and demanding decent living standards for the EMTs.
- Kshama has walked countless picket lines and used her Council seat to mobilize community support for striking workers, including the Teamsters 174 bus drivers employed by First Student, who won a more affordable healthcare plan as well as the first retirement benefits for any First Student contract nationwide; machine operators in the Operating Engineers Local 302; Teamsters 174 sand and gravel workers in 2017; striking custodians at Harborview medical center organized in WFSE 1488; WFSE 3488 laundry workers at UW; ILWU 19 port workers; Amazon pilots represented in Teamsters Local 1224.
- Kshama’s office supported efforts to unionize post-doc workers at the University of Washington, and we passed a resolution in solidarity with UAW 4121 workers on strike for a fair and equitable contract. The postdoc workers' courageous struggle resulted in a historic victory.
- Kshama’s office organized in solidarity with SEIU 6 Amazon security workers against discrimination and Islamophobia, flouting of labor laws, and even illegitimate firings. These workers just defeated the richest man in the world and have won their union.
- Kshama supported REI workers’ calls for unionization in their organizing push which won significant wage raises and other crucial workplace gains.
- During the Seattle Education Association strike, Kshama held a community rally in City Council chambers to build support for the strike, led the way on a City Council resolution in solidarity with the striking educators, donated twice from her Solidarity Fund to the teachers’ strike fund, and joined educators on their picket lines.
- Kshama’s office organized working people to win crucial funding for LGBTQ services, including funding for a senior LGBTQ center and funding for a health and wellness center at Nova High School.
- In response to a surge in hate crimes and discrimination in Capitol Hill, Kshama hosted a public forum which brought out hundreds to share our experiences and strategies to defeat anti-LBGTQ hate and violence.
- Kshama introduced a proclamation declaring June 24 Trans Pride Day, winning a unanimous vote on the City Council.
- Kshama fought alongside the Shell NO Movement and Councilmember O’Brien to lead the City Council opposition to Shell Oil’s failed attempt to use Seattle as a base for arctic drilling.
- Kshama’s office passed a resolution to defund Keystone XL and Transcanada. We also spearheaded Seattle City Council resolutions against the Fast-Tracking of the Trans Pacific Partnership and for seeking alternatives to nuclear power.
- Kshama’s office also introduced a moratorium on coal and oil trains passing through Seattle neighborhoods. Kshama personally took part in civil disobedience on train tracks in downtown Seattle to block oil trains and vocally opposed oil and coal trains and the proposed Cherry Point Coal Terminal. The organized opposition of environmental and indigenous activists ultimately led to the defeat of every proposed coal terminal in the northwest coast.
When ordinary people get organized and fight back, we can win. Kshama is our movement’s only consistent ally in City Hall, which is exactly why big business wants her gone. Vote “No” on the right-wing recall by December 7th!